Pōhue (Muehlenbeckia) vine land

CI Conservation Board Meeting – River Onion, 9 May 2022

After a long period of exile for the board chair caused by the ongoing Pandemic the Chatham Island Board finally all met in person rather than virtually, at the River Onion. Prior to this meeting, the last ‘full house’ meeting had been at Kōpinga Marae in early August 2021.

The meeting was attended by Susan Thorpe, Alfred Johansen, Levi Lanauze, Lois Croon, Peter de Lange and Di Gregory-Hunt (by phone from Rangihaute / Rangiauria / Pitt Island). Apologies were received for Trescia Lawson, Monique Croon and Hamish Chisholm. The Department of Conservation (DOC) was represented by Brent Swanson (Acting Manager), and Jilleen Chandler in her role as Board Support Officer set up the meeting, helped run it and kept the minutes.

Key issues discussed at the meeting concerned the Minister of Conservation’s Stewardship Land Review – as the implications of how this review affected land subject to the Moriori Deed of Settlement was unclear. The ongoing need to revise the Chatham Islands Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) was also discussed. The CMS the Department is still using was published in 1999, so is very out of date. Concerns over the death of mataira / matipō (Myrsine chathamica) on Rangihaute / Rangiauria / Pitt Island were discussed. This issue first noted by Pitt Islanders is easily seen as dying tree’s turn orange. The board requested that DOC gather good images of senescent trees, and if possible samples of the dying foliage, branchlets, as well as soil from around the tree roots. This information can then be used to consult with experts back in New Zealand to see if they can determine a cause.

Luzie Schmid, Third Year B.App.Sci. student researching the status of Chatham Islands pōhue (Muehlenbeckia)

The Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) Local Advisory Committee (LAC) (Deena Whaitiri, Tracy Page (FENZ LAC), Bruce Stubbs, Nick Pyatt and Craig Cottrill (FENZ)) then had a virtual meeting with the board to explain their role and see what the board’s views were over a series of questions. Levi Lanauze from the Board, and Brent Swanson (DOC) are also members of LAC. The board offered several comments concerning water usage for fires, and questioned when fires needed to be extinguished (as some fires can be beneficial to the management of some of the Chatham Islands ecosystems, e.g., restiad bog). Discussion about training local people to fight fires, and setting up water storage tanks with the correct gauge pipe outlets to ensure fire hoses can be rapidly attached was also discussed. The board agreed to have six monthly meetings with LAC, and if matters are more urgent as and when required.

Following this meeting, the board adjourned for lunch, where they met Luzie Schmid, a third year Bachelor of Applied Sciences, School of Environmental & Animals Sciences, Unitec Institute of Technology student. Luzie is undertaking a study of the Chatham Islands race of pohue (Muehlenbeckia) which appears to be a new species. Luzie outlined her work on the island, and what she will need to do with specimens she collected when back in New Zealand. Also, in attendance was Bridget Gibb from Te Ara Manu who explained the extensive tree planting programme , which aims to link the Tuku Coastline with Waiteki / Waitangi. Many thousands of hakapiri / akeake (Olearia traversiorum) have now been planted, and an extensive network of predator control stations set up in local kawenata / covenants. Following Bridget’s korero, the board went on an inspection of the plantings done along the pā / urupā that stretches along the beach north of Ōrea/Mangatukurewa / Nairn River. The initial plantings had been organised by board member Lois Croon about 2000. Lois explained the successes and failures experienced and Bridget outlined future planting options.

Following the short field trip, the board reconvened for a brief update on the CMS, where it was agreed to seek advice from National Office, Department of Conservation.

The board will next meet on July 15 with the venue yet to be confirmed.

Associate Professor (Botany, Ecology, Plant Conservation, Biosystematics) at Unitec in Auckland and a former Department of Conservation scientist. Peter has been visiting the Chatham Islands since 1996 and is a current member of the Chatham Islands Conservation Board.